When you look back at the days of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, games have always been expensive. Arguably, you get much more bang for your pennies nowadays.
Heck, in real terms, games are actually cheaper than they used to be - and providing you don't mind contracting dysentery from other people's filthy bum-fingers, there's a thriving second hand market, thanks to retailers like CEX.
But what could you do back in the day, before second-hand games were a thing, if you wanted a new game, but didn't want to resort to the dirty act of piracy?
In my case, I went to Freemans, the corner shop at the top of my road.
Freemans was a bit of an Aladdin's cave.
The front of the shop was magazines, comics, and pick and mix. The rear had toys; toys which were yellowed and dusty, and looked as if they'd been on the shelves since the mid-60s, or earlier.
One of the boxes they had on one of the higher shelves was for a Dan Dare radio set; this was before Fleetway relaunched Dan Dare in a revamped Eagle comic, in 1982. Prior to that I only had vague awareness of who Dan Dare was, but I liked the look of his radio set. I never bought it, of course. I don't know if anyone ever bought it. One day it just disappeared from the shelves. Perhaps they discovered it had asbestos or uranium in it.
Aside from that one treasure, the shelves were mostly full of blister-carded cheap and cheerful toys; cop and cowboy and secret agent gear for the boys down one side, and dangerous-looking doll accessories for girls down the other.
It reminded me of an evil version of Wordy, from the BBC schools programme Words And Pictures.
I don't know if it was caught on their security tapes, but I once pooed my pants in the toy aisle, and ran home without telling my friends. When I arrived, I hid my soiled underwear in a ring binder. If only I'd been "ring bound" before leaving the house, eh...
This is a fact I remember wistfully whenever I pay one of my occasional visits to Freemans, which is still there (albeit called something else now). They've walled off the toy aisles sadly, the once-sprawling magazine section now reduced to a handful of titles, and the pick and mix jars which used to be behind the counter have been replaced with bottles of spirits.
Freemans was the only place I'd ever seen computer games for sale, outside of computer shops, Woolworths, or John Menzies.
They greeted you as you entered; a custom display at the front of the shop for Mastertronic's £1.99 range; ZX Spectrum games on one side, C64 on the other.
£1.99 was about a tenth of what most games cost back in the day, and - conveniently - a penny cheaper than my weekly pocket money, which meant I'd always have enough left over for a foam shrimp.
The first Mastertronic game I bought was a darts simulator, 180 - which had been co-created by lovely Ste Pickford, who I'd later work with on Future Tactics. I'd intended it to be a replacement for my real dartboard - which had to be thrown away, because my father vomited on it after returning home from a party, somewhat troubled with the drink.
There seemed to be new Mastertronic games whenever I returned to Freemans; Bionic Granny, Ninja, 3D Maze. Unfortunately, for every Finders Keepers - a surprisingly decent mix of Jet Set Willy and Pyjamarama - or One Man And His Droid - a sci-fi shepherding simulator - there was a Streaker, a game in which you controlled a nude man on a quest to find his stolen clothes.
Gradually, Mastertronic moved into pricier games, first £2.99, then moving up to full-price releases for its M.A.D - Mastertronic Added Value - range.
At one point, the company was the market-leading computer games publisher in the UK - a position which led to them distributing the Master System across the UK and Europe.
The success of this move - the Master System beating the NES into a distant second - convinced Virgin to buy the company.
Eventually, Sega established its own European operation - much of Mastertronic's staff moving to Sega Europe, with the remainder staying behind at the newly-monickered Virgin Interactive.
The Mastertronic brand eventually moved owners, before becoming established as Mastertronic Group - though 33 years on from its founding, it has appeared to have disappeared altogether, after filing for bankruptcy at the end of last year. Ironically, the brand was briefly offered to potential buyers for the budget price of £1.99.
Which, alas, isn't true. But what a fitting end it would have been.